People have all sorts of suggestions for how you should spend your 20s, and they land pretty much everywhere on the spectrum. Some say you should work extra hard to provide yourself with a solid foundation for the future. After all, you're young and void of life's later obligations, put that time to good use. Others say you shouldn't squander it toiling your best years away in monotony. As is probably evident from some of my other writings (read: ramblings), I fall somewhere in the middle. On one hand, I recognize that I'm setting up the foundation for the rest of my life right now (little to no expenses, investing early, yadda yadda yadda). But on the other hand, as I'm one to note, I only get to be this young once and I'll be damned if I don't make some memories to reminisce about when I'm old and gray. Plus, one of the main reasons I decided on the truck life was to minimize the time until I could start travelling.
Anyway, this is all just a long-winded introduction for the actual topic at hand: striking a work-life balance when you literally live at work. Sounds tricky, right? When your lifestyle blurs the line between working and just living, how do you make sure that they don't amalgamate into one never-ending workday? Early on, this was a legitimate issue for me, and I didn't even realize it because of how natural it felt. During the week, I would wake up, head to a gym (at work), shower (at work), work (obviously at work), and hang around the office (working, mainly) until it was time to go to sleep. Rinse and repeat. It took me a few weeks of this routine to realize that I was spending 70-80% of my waking time working. I ever-so-briefly became a zombie, constantly and mindlessly working away at whatever problem I was given, reduced to a machine that turned food into code and waste. It wasn't that my workload was too high, I just didn't know what else to do, and that happened to be the path of least resistance. However, after a few months of experimentation, I think I've figured out a reasonable formula, but I still have to be very cognizant of what I'm doing, lest I slip back into my bad work habits of yestermonth.
Separation of Truck and Work
The first thing I had to do was to realize that just because I'm relying on work for most of my basic needs (showers, bathrooms, food, laundry, gym, etc), I can still draw a clear line between when I'm working and furthering the goals of the company I work for, and when I'm enjoying my own free time. Recognizing this was the first step, once I was able to understand the difference, I just had to define which was when, and add a little bit of regimentation into the mix.
Set Work Hours - And Stick to Them
The first thing I did was put my foot down and establish what time of day I would be working. Any other time of day, that's Brandon time. I decided that 8-9 hours a day of working was more than enough to get everything done that I needed/wanted to. There is very little I currently work on that is too important to wait until tomorrow if it's getting late. And I figure I normally workout, shower, and head to breakfast by 8 am, so 8 until 4 or 4:30 pm sounds like a pretty reasonable work schedule. Okay, let's say I've done my time and 4 o'clock rolls around, what's next?
Find Places to Go After Work
I quickly realized that it wasn't quite enough to just say that work ended at 4, I had to physically get up and go somewhere. Sure, I could just sit at my desk and work on my blog, or plan my travels, or code up some side projects, but being physically located at my desk meant that I was much more likely to accidentally get wrangled back into doing work stuff. Plus, being at my desk for 10-12 hours a day, every day, probably looks pretty strange to my coworkers. The solution? Go somewhere else. If I don't have any other plans, I have a mental list of locations to hang out and enjoy my own time. Some of them are just different places on campus far from my desk, others are cafes downtown, and still others are random places near where I pick up mail from my faux mailbox. So that covers the week, but you're going to need a new game plan for when Saturday shows up at your truck door.
Planning Weekend Activities
I like to wake up bright and early Saturday morning and do all of the week's laundry.* Up until last month, I had a laundry room in the same building as my office. That sounds super convenient, but what ended up happening was that I'd hang out at my desk while I was waiting for my laundry to finish, and inevitably my feeble mind would wander back onto work topics. I'm sure someone with a better understanding of basic human psychology would be able to explain why that happens, but I certainly don't have that answer. In any case, doing laundry in a building other than my own, far from the temptation of productivity, solved that problem. My routine is now doing laundry and exercise in parallel, killing two proverbial birds with one proverbial stone. That only accounts for 2 or 3 hours of my whole weekend though, surely there's more to it. After all, the truck likes to pretend it's an oven during the day. It's not as if I can just hang out in there all afternoon, and I actually prefer it that way. At some point I'll dedicate a whole post on how to have a successful night on the town with the truck in tow. For now, just know that I prefill my weekends with cafes, trips to the city, parks, errands, events, movies, and questionably appropriate levels of alcohol. Note the emphasis on the "pre" part, if I don't plan things out in advance, I'll inevitably end up back at my desk, which I consider a Bad ThingTM.
Know Your Limitations
Living in a truck makes some types of fairly normal leisure activities more difficult. Namely, not having a TV/reliable internet (and by extension cable/Netflix) means I can't just plop on the couch, throw on some Beverly Honey Hills Ninja Boo Boo Warrior, and let my brain matter leak out of my ears. I can't watch Netflix on my laptop in the truck because I don't get quite good enough reception, and I just feel off doing it at work. I'm okay with this though, because it almost forces me to find something more productive to do, which I don't mind in the slightest.
The takeaway here is that having a life of your own outside of work is important, truck or not. Truck living is easier in some ways, harder in others, and just plain stranger in some places. But making a concerted effort to only give a portion of your soul to your employer means that you still have some left over to put towards your dreams. Maybe a little too sappy and idealized, but the sentiment is there.
*Sidenote: This was definitely a good habit to get into. It turns out a full laundry bag of sweaty gym clothes can make a small confined space, say a box truck for example, smell pretty bad, pretty quickly. So regularly purging the demons of well-worn clothing from my life improves my quality of living fairly dramatically.